Stop Being Solitary: How Others Are The Key To Your Success As A Writer

“Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own…I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.” – Former U.S. President Barack Obama

I opened this post with President Obama’s quote because it can be applied perfectly to writers. From my position as publisher and co-founder of Beautiful Losers Magazine, I have seen that some of the best poets and short fiction writers are not in The New Yorker, Granta, or The Paris Review. Of course, that is not to say that the writers featured in those magazines are not exceptional talents, because by and large they are, but only that many talented writers are never discovered by the readership of these magazines. In many cases, these writers are equals to their more established peers in creativity, knowledge of the nuances of craft, and work ethic. So why are some writers exalted and others remain in obscurity? Perhaps because no one gave them some help along the way.

Writing can be seen as a solitary profession, and to some extent it is, but there are many instances where receiving help can be the difference between success and anonymity. Here are a few ways in which others can help you along in your path as a writer:

1. Editing. Every writer needs an editor. My short fiction wouldn’t be nearly as good if my editors Rairigh Drum and Lauren Rubin didn’t examine every piece that I write and offer constructive suggestions towards improving them. The same holds true for my forthcoming book with Vakasha Brenman. Writers have a blind side when it comes to their own work. To gain an agent’s representation or get writing accepted in competitive literary magazines, working with an editor is mandatory. It’s my mission to help talented writers succeed in the literary game, and I want to help 100 writers who have never been published before have their work published. That’s why I offer editing services. If you have an unpublished manuscript that needs a thorough edit, I want to help you. You can read more about my services by clicking here.

2. Networking. Your manuscript may be well-written and edited to a publishable standard; however, that doesn’t mean that you will automatically be able to attract an agent’s interest and be on the fast track to a contract with a big publisher. If you are completely divorced from the network of writers, voracious readers, agents, and publishers, you are missing a golden opportunity to advance. Forming friendships with other writers, influential readers, or those involved in the business of literature can have immense benefits, not the least of which is putting your manuscript before a person in a decision-making position.

3. Inspiration. It happens to all of us, we start writing and hit a wall. Our mood drops, the ideas stop coming, and the frustration sets in. This is where friends, family, and romantic partners come in. The next time your writing hits a wall, get connected with others, and watch how easy the words will come to you when you resume your writing.

What other benefits do you find from turning to others? Comment below to share your thoughts.

If you found this post helpful, please like, comment, repost, or subscribe to my blog – all are appreciated!

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Inside A Publisher’s Mind: Slick by Erric Emerson

5-10% Of the many submissions of poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction that we receive at Beautiful Losers Magazine, only around 5-10% of them are accepted for publication. If that sounds competitive, it’s because it is; and many literary magazines are actually quite a bit more difficult to get into than Beautiful Losers Magazine.

With that in mind, I’m proud to introduce a new concept to The Literary Game. Inside A Publisher’s Mind is going to be a running feature detailing the rationale behind the poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction that we’ve accepted at Beautiful Losers Magazine. While every publication has their own unique style, it is my hope that this can shed a little light on some of the core qualities of excellent literature and help writers improve their craft. I hope you find this of help!

Without further ado, here’s why I accepted Erric Emerson’s Slick.

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  1. Slick was consistent with the type of poetry that we publish. We’ve rejected a poetry submission from a poet who was published in The New Yorker. Credentials don’t matter to us, especially if a poet or other type of writer doesn’t send writing that is a fit for our magazine. Slick is edgy, literary, and accessible – exactly in line with the type of poetry that we publish.
  2. Slick was provocative. Lines like “When she came in my mouth, it tasted like a three-years-held / thank-you, / that sweet.” caught my attention. The entire poem was bold. Emerson didn’t dance around the sexuality intrinsic to this poem, he embraced it.
  3. Slick was exceptionally well-crafted. First, the basics: There were no typos, no grammatical mistakes, and no odd formatting, all of which turn me off because they indicate that either a writer doesn’t understand the basics of the English language, or that they don’t take their writing seriously enough to give it a proofread. Beyond the basics, Emerson showed that he wasn’t a novice through his strong use of imagery and the push-pull in the language’s subtlety. A less-skilled poet could easily have lost the artfulness of this poem and turned into a shock piece with little literary merit.

If you want to read Slick for yourself, just click here. If you’ve read Slick, what did you think?

If you found this post helpful, please like, comment, repost, or subscribe to my blog – all are appreciated! Thank you!

Five Benefits To Starting A Literary Magazine

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It’s been a while! I apologize for the lack of posts, but I’ve been extremely busy with other projects since last November. Quick update: I’ve been commissioned to write a screenplay for Supersonic Productions and a non-fiction book for a New York City-based nonprofit. In combination with my duties as co-founder and publisher of Beautiful Losers Magazine, free time has been at a minimum. Still, no excuses, right? On with the show!

Right here on WordPress, when I was scrolling through my feed, I found an incredibly talented writer named Dario Cannizzaro  We became friends, and he introduced me to his friend Austin Wiggins. They told me about their plan to start a literary magazine, and I was intrigued. I had started a couple of literary magazines in the past, but they had fizzled out for various reasons. Now, with a couple of high-character partners, we set out to start a literary magazine, and the rest is history.

Has running a literary magazine been easy? Not always! But it has definitely been worth it, and for many writers, choosing to start a literary magazine can be an incredibly valuable experience. Here are a few reasons that I’ve found as to how starting a literary magazine can be extremely beneficial for writers. If you know of any that I’ve missed, make sure to leave them in the comments below. Hope this helps!

  1. Networking. If you’re not Cormac McCarthy or Junot Diaz, you probably could benefit from gaining some new contacts to help advance your writing career. Running a literary magazine affords you the opportunity to network with talented writers. If you accept an author’s work, or even if you send them a personal rejection, you can start a conversation that can lead to some incredible contacts with ties to editors, publishers, and literary agents. Personally, I’ve become good friends with someone who’s collaborated with elite-level Hollywood directors. Pretty good for a budding screenwriter, right?
  2. Immersion. I understand that you might have to hold down that 9-5 until your literary dreams come true, but what are you doing on your time off? Starting a literary magazine gives you the opportunity to completely immerse yourself in the culture of writers. You’re responsible for reading countless submissions, so that means putting Netflix aside, logging off Facebook, and learning from your contemporaries.
  3. Credibility. If you’re submitting short stories or poetry to literary magazines, or manuscripts to literary agents, running a competitive literary journal shows that you have some skin in the literary game. If a journal or agent is on the fence about your work, this could be what tips someone in your favor.
  4. Friendship. Whether you choose to go solo or partner with others on your litmag, your dedication will likely attract the attention of other likeminded people, and many of the most valuable friendships of your life may develop.
  5. Discipline. Starting a literary magazine is a form of leadership. Your readers are dependent on you putting out excellent content. Your writers are dependent on you screening submissions in a timely fashion. As a writer, discipline is critical, even more so than talent. Working day in and day out on your magazine can instill the necessary work ethic needed for success in the literary game.

Have any questions about starting a literary magazine? Comment below and I’ll do my best to share my thoughts! If you found this post helpful, please like, comment, repost, or subscribe to my blog – all are appreciated! 

 

How To Promote A Self-Published eBook – Two Simple Ways to Get Major Results

I’m a huge fan of retro video games. Like many Reagan babies, I owned an NES, a Nintendo lunch box, ate Nintendo cereal, watched the Super Mario Bros. Super Show; I could go on, but you get the idea. After the NES faded in popularity, I went on to the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, then the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, before losing interest when I attended college (Parties are more fun. Studying has its purpose too, I suppose).

Now, at 33-years-old and with a little bit of disposable income, I’ve started to collect some of the games I missed purchasing in my childhood. There are certain “brands” that I’ll buy pretty much anything from (e.g. Mega Man; Castlevania; Ninja Gaiden; The Legend of Zelda; Metroid; etc.), but what about the games I didn’t get a chance to play or that were unknown to me back then? I’ll buy a few of those too, but only if I see a demonstration on a YouTube channel, and hear some reputable voices vouch for it.

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The reason I include this anecdote is because the same methods that work for alerting me to retro video games that I should give a chance are the same ones that alert me and many other readers to self-published writers that are worth a read.

Dispel the notion once and for all that if you write it, they will come. They won’t. You have to get noticed or self-publishing is an exercise in futility if your goal is to make money and/or get people to read your writing. I’ve known many talented writers who choose to self-publish. What happens when they release their books? Nothing. It’s every self-published writer’s worst fear.

So, how exactly do you get readers and sales for your eBook? 

  1. Win over an influencer. Some think getting good reviews on Amazon or Smashwords are enough. Not true; they help, but you need to draw traffic first. The best way to do that is to have an Internet influencer promote you on their media. Who exactly qualifies as an influencer? A good ballpark figure is at least 1,000 followers on social media or WordPress, or the face behind a heavily-trafficked website that many people in your niche know about. While press anywhere helps, to get real results you need to get an endorsement from an Internet “star.”
  2. Give some of it away for free. That means giving free copies of your book to influencers. That means putting up chapters for free online. You’re not Dan Brown or Stephen King yet, so you have to earn your readers’ attention and show that you’re talented.

And that’s it. Are there other ways that you can promote your eBook? Of course. That said, if you want results in a big way and quickly, focus on the big win. Anything else is often just a tiresome waste.

Have you had success as a self-published author? Share a comment below to help aspiring authors. 

How To Balance Writing, Publishing, and Networking?

My cousin Jerry, by most any account, has a pretty good life. He’s successful doing work that he loves, makes a nice amount of money, has a beautiful and charming wife, and three great children. When I talked to him about some of the initial challenges I was facing after I quit my job as an educator and planned to make a go of it as a writer, filmmaker, and entrepreneur, Jerry told me a story. As a man in his early twenties, he quickly earned more than double the salary of many of his middle-aged coworkers. How? When others put in 40 hours on the clock, with maybe 10 hours spent actually doing their jobs, he put in 80 hours, working beyond what was expected. Now, he doesn’t have to work so hard, though he still puts in a great deal time in projects he cares about. Those other guys, who knows what they’re doing now?

The point of this story is simple, if you’re serious about not just writing in your spare time, but making a career of being a writer, you’d better work hard. Still, even if you put in 80 hours per week, in such a competitive position as creative writing, if you’re not working smart, you just might end up stuck in as bad a position as Jerry’s former coworkers.

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One of the most difficult concerns for any writer looking to not just break in, but succeed, is the balance of writing, publishing, and networking. Here are a few suggestions that should help you work smarter, not harder:

  • Above all, write. One novel, three short stories, five poems – that’s not enough. Don’t even think about publishing or utilizing contacts and networking until you have a solid body of work. One success wouldn’t make a career, and the amount of time spent doing so is counterproductive. Make writing a consistent habit, have a lot of work to show around, and then start thinking about networking and publishing.
  • Understand that writing probably won’t make you rich. J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are the extremely rare exceptions. That said, many writers can make a living off of writing alone, many times even off of creative writing alone. It helps if your budget isn’t extreme. If you are single and live in an area with a low cost of living in the United States, you could probably get by on around $1000/month. While you wouldn’t be living well on that, you could survive. Then, through perseverance and building your reputation, you could make a good deal more.
  •  The Internet is your friend. Creating a blog centered around your writing, or other topics of interest to writers, could be a great way to attract attention. Taking a participatory role in the culture of the writing community online will open yourself up to many new opportunities. Helping others will lead them to helping you. Websites like Upwork and Craigslist present many opportunities for publishers looking for ghostwriters. The pay may not be great, but with a body of work, a high-character approach, and determination, you can get those jobs and build traction. Do so.
  • Don’t be an outsider. Jumping off the previous point, many communities on the Internet are niche. If you write science-fiction or romance or mysteries, find where those writers and readers gather and become a part of their communities. Above all, help as many people as you can. Being a self-serving renegade can kill your chances of succeeded in today’s literary world.
  • Understand your markets. Don’t submit a 80,000 word science-fiction novel to an avant-garde poetry site. Respect publishers by being familiar with the writing that they publish and reading a significant amount of it. When you read the work that publishers put out, you’ll quickly know if it’s similar to your own. If it’s not, don’t waste your time and the publisher’s time with a submission. There are so many magazines and publishers that there is bound to be one that’s a good match for your style. Use Duotrope, Poets & Writers, or the Writer’s Market and find it!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a favor. In the words of new wave singer Morrissey of The Smiths, “Shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to…” If you have a friend or other contact that could potentially lead to a solid break, don’t be afraid to ask them for what you need. The worst they can do is say no. Of course, make sure that you’ve done the basics first. Above all, follow their suggestions afterwards. Nothing burns out a good contact more than asking for a favor and not following through after someone does what you ask.

Taking these suggestions into account, you’ll be in an excellent position to advance your writing career. What do you think? What advice would you give to a new writer seeking to follow their dreams? Let’s start a dialogue.

 

A Guide To Publishing Etiquette

Maybe I have some sort of undiagnosed personality disorder, but one of my biggest pet peeves is writers who don’t follow the submissions guidelines for Beautiful / Losers Magazine. When a writer sends us an email with their poems or stories attached as a Word document, I become visibly filled with rage. My blood pressure shoots up. My smile turns upside down. And then I delete it, but not after having soaked in my righteous anger for a bit. If you don’t believe me, just ask my fiancee.

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The last thing any writer hoping to get their submission accepted for publication wants is for an editor’s face to look like the one of the man above. Chances are, if an editor has that face before even reading your submission, it’s toast.

So, how do you avoid making editors displeased? It’s simple, etiquette!

  • Always read the submissions guidelines and follow them to a T.
  • Find out to whom you should address your cover letter.
  • Send a respectful cover letter.
  • Don’t get angry if they reject your writing. Don’t respond at all in such a case.
  • Read their magazine first.
  • Submit work that fits with the aesthetic of their magazine. To find out what the aesthetic is, read it!
  • Be patient. Sometimes it can be a spell before you hear back from a publisher.
  • Don’t paste your submission in the body of an email if they want attachments.
  • And, of course, DON’T SEND YOUR SUBMISSION AS AN ATTACHMENT IF THEY WANT IT IN THE BODY OF AN EMAIL 😉

How to avoid making editors displeased? Treat your submission to a magazine or publishing house with the same respect you would take to a job interview. Put your best face forward, do your homework, follow the rules, and you’ll be in the best potential situation for success.

Did I miss anything in this post? What do you think are some of the things to avoid when submitting writing to a publishing house or literary magazine?

Thinking About Kindle Direct Publishing? Hire a Formatter!

Do you want to publish on Kindle Direct Publishing? Great! Just make sure to get your manuscript professionally formatted prior to uploading it on KDP or you might be less than satisfied with the results.

I was excited to roll out a collection of short stories, tentatively titled New Weird America, on Kindle Direct Publishing. I edited all ten of my stories once again, making sure they were as tight as possible. I wrote my dedications, my biography, my title page, my table of contents, the whole shebang. In less than a day, KDP had my title up and running. Two days later, I took it down.

A word to the wise – the formatting you use in Word (or Pages, or whatever you use to type your manuscript) doesn’t always translate so well to Kindle Direct Publishing. My table of contents looked completely off. My introductory pages were cut off in weird places. I didn’t even get a chance to actually see how my stories looked from the free introduction, but given what I had seen, it needed to be pulled.

With the new possibilities for reach using Amazon Direct Publishing, self-published authors need to consider the possibility of hiring professionals to format their manuscript for readability on Kindle. I found a website, Word-2-Kindle.com, that does this job for only $49. I suggest that anyone new to KDP utilize their service, or others doing the same.

The rap on self-published books is that they are of poor quality. Formatting issues that hinder a reader’s capability to enjoy your work are a big turnoff. To uphold the standards of your writing, make sure to get your manuscript professionally formatted prior to using Kindle Direct Publishing.